Day 6-7: Mark Learns How Little He Knows, then Goes Home
I've been home for four days now, and am finally able to make it past 7 pm without feeling exhausted. I want to write about my last day in Doha and the trip home while it's still fresh in my mind.
I woke up early (again, getting far too used to Doha-time) and went to the gym to work out on the elliptical and weights. The big LCD screen on the wall was set to VH1, and it felt out of place to see Lady Gaga and Beyonce in "Telephone" while in Qatar. The gym looked out over the marina, so the setting was beautiful.
After breakfast, I met up with John Impagliazzo and Boots Cassel. They were going to go geocaching later, but while John went to a meeting, Boots and I were going to visit the Souq again and the Museum of Islamic Art. On the way, John took us to The Pearl, an outlandishly expensive set of man-made islands on which a "Riviera-style" setting is being created.
Click on any of the pictures to see larger versions in PicasaWeb
Then we went back to the Souq for about an hour of shopping. This time, I took pictures of what just the tiny alleys that made up most of the Souq looked like.
Click on this one to hear the call to mid-day prayers while I walk.
A mall where women can buy Abayats.
Then Boots and I walked over to the Museum of Islamic Art. Designed by I.M. Pei, the building itself is beautiful.
Boots and I were amazed at the artifacts in the building. I really learned how little I knew about the Eastern world.
Illustrated books and Q'urans.
The museum claimed that the Islamic world inherited the knowledge of the Greeks, maintained it during the European "Dark Ages," then translated it back to Latin to spur the Renaissance. I'd heard that claim, but never really thought about it much. They really had the evidence for this claim, with intricate astrolabes for tracking the planets dating back to 900 or 1000AD.
At various points in the museum, we'd see references to "Timur." I asked Boots if she knew who that was, and she didn't either. I looked him up when we got back to Wikipedia. Timur conquered from Afghanistan and Persia all the way to Delhi in the 1300's. The empire he created became the Mughal Empire in India (no, I'd never heard of that one either) which lasted until 1857. This guy conquered land on the order of Napoleon or Alexander the Great, created an empire that lasted 500 years, and is assumed, commonplace knowledge in the Middle East – and a couple of American professors have never even heard of him! Wow. I am not particularly astute historically, but to go from commonplace in the East to unknown in the West is a huge divide.
I caught a taxi back to the hotel, and spend the whole afternoon and evening working on my end-of-term grading (which I just finished today at noon! Literally, one minute before the deadline!). At 7:50 pm, I took a shower, and met up with John and Boots for a bite at the Club Lounge, then headed downstairs to check out and meet my driver. The driver was much more talkative than the one on the way in. He told me that he had two children back in India, whom he saw when he want back in the summers. "How long have you been here in Qatar?" "Oh, about 12 years." That's a long time during which you only see your kids two months a year!
Had to juggle my luggage to meet the weight limit (which involves leaving the terminal and coming back in through X-ray again), but got on alright. I had bought some cough medicine in the souq, so that plus an Ambien had me out. We actually only flew 25 minutes to Bahrain, then boarded more customers. A military lady joined me in my row, and told me in London that she was jealous at how soundly I slept until breakfast time! (British Airways have these great seats, even in Coach/Steerage Class, where the sides rotate down to lean against. Love it!) I had an English breakfast, including roast tomato and mushrooms.
This time, I caught the right buses in Heathrow and made it to my American Airlines flight home. I worked the whole way from London to Chicago, not even watching movies during lunch and snack (by putting things to be graded on my Kindle), trying to whittle down the grading load. The American Airlines flight was, unfortunately, 15 minutes late. By the time I cleared customs, it was 30 minutes before my flight to Atlanta – yes, 15 minutes too late. I was FURIOUS. American almost makes me miss my connection in Chicago, loses my baggage, then doesn't put it on the next flight so that I miss my bag for two days, AND THEN MAKES ME THREE HOURS LATE GOING HOME! Argh!
I sat in Chicago, dealing with email and relishing being able to read signs. I got home by 8 pm to see my lovely wife and my wonderful kids. Home at last!